The payment of tuition fees for students in China was affected by the foreign currency exchange rate fluctuations and not because the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) failed to pay the required fees on time.
NSFAF chief executive officer Hilya Nghiwete explained that although the correct amounts, as per predetermined rate and signed contracts were paid in full, the foreign exchange rate fluctuation negatively affected the Chinese Yuan by 15 percent against the USD, resulting in reduced purchasing power, hence the shortfall in the amounts after conversion. More than 300 students – most of whom are pursuing medical studies in China – complained that they are unable to fully settle their tuition fees and are also finding it difficult to survive, as there is a shortfall in the amounts after conversion of the Namibian dollar to Chinese Yuan.
The students allege that government paid them N$62 000, instead of the usual N$87 000. Nghiwete, however, said NSFAF is aware of the exchange rate fluctuation and has considered the takeover of the foreign exchange risk by paying students a top-up amount, equivalent to the fluctuation rate to alleviate the burden on students and parents.
“This departure from policy and normal practice, however, requires additional funds and, therefore, approval by the relevant structures before communicating this solution to the students and relevant stakeholders for implementation,” she maintained.
Nghiwete informed government-funded students especially that NSFAF conducted a case study at some Chinese universities and the results revealed that not all students are negatively affected due to varying predetermined rates for different fields of study.
Therefore, the proposed top-up solution in this regard, she says, is geared towards assisting all those negatively affected in order to counter the effect of diminishing purchasing power of the Chinese Yuan.
In fact, Nghiwete says, a total of 206 of the student payments were already made by NSFAF in January. The other candidates, she said, were new students studying in China and payments for them were made between May and August.
“This is a significant improvement on payments on previous years by NSFAF, when payments sometimes only occurred in December. The Fund would like to make it clear that it has paid all its students in China, as per the predetermined rate and signed for contractual amount of N$87 000 for those doing medicine.
“Furthermore, relevant amounts for other courses – in line with the predetermined rate and signed contracts – were also paid. The assertion in the media report that NSFAF denied that they ‘paid less money than per their agreement with students’ is misleading and devoid of any truth and, therefore, should be disregarded,” she said in a statement.
She appealed to the country at large and all affected stakeholders not to jump to conclusions in this regard and to trust in the mechanisms in place to address the situation and not to cause unnecessary panic by spreading rumours.
“NSFAF is definitely aware of the situation and is in the process of addressing it so that there may be a positive solution,” she said.